Beginners Corner

Snooth User: Diego Andrés Díaz

About foxyness

Posted by Diego Andrés Díaz, Jan 16, 2014.

Recently, reading about the havoc that phylloxera and other pests wreak to the european vineyards, I learn how one of the solutions adopted was the use of hibrids between american and european vines. Although, these vines produced wines with a strange taste that are described as Foxy. 
What means that? I can imagine what people are taking about when they say a wine tastes like petrol, or when they say it has certain minerality, but foxyness is beyond my imagination.


There's some experiment or practice i can do to learn how to recognize that particular taste?



Reply by dvogler, Jan 16, 2014.

Hi D,

Here's something I found on the Wine Spectator forum:

Foxy refers to the compound Methyl Anthranilate.  It is what gives grape candy its grape flavor.  The most notable grape with which this flavor is associated is the Concord grape which is good for juice, but not good for wine.


Reply by dvogler, Jan 16, 2014.

There is more information on Wikipedia about this compound, which actually is in concord grapes and other "lambrusca" grapes (inferior for wine).  It said something too about some dogs and foxes who's musk sacs secrete this smell.

I am so happy to not have experienced this in wine! 

Reply by JenniferT, Jan 17, 2014.

OMG - this is EXACTLY what I had just come on to post about! 

I am also trying to gain an understanding of foxiness. I had really thought that it wasn't necessarily a bad trait in a wine? It came up last week, when I was at a restaurant in Whistler that is known in part for their great selection of oysters, which I had with cava. I was told that oysters are known to bring out a foxiness in cava that many people enjoy.

Have any of you guys heard that before? I did find the pairing brought out an interesting element in the wine that I couldn't really put my finger on...maybe that was it.

I'd really like to understand this term a little more, so I'd love to hear what you guys think.

Reply by JenniferT, Jan 17, 2014.

I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I'm still grappling with "minerality" as well. I have put some time into understanding that one. On one hand I am at a loss to describe what minerals taste/smell like, lol! After some reading I try to think about it in terms of the smell of wet stone (which is a smell that I can recall/reference). 


Reply by JonDerry, Jan 17, 2014.

Jen...for minerality I'd suggest trying some red and white Burgundy. 2010 is a good vintage for need to buy expensive wines, basic Bourgogne's can be really nice in the $20-30 range.

It's basically another word for medium plus to strong acidity with some sense of wet stone or chalkiness. It's not due to the soil or any one specific material in the wine, just the result of all the chemical reactions.

Reply by JenniferT, Jan 17, 2014.

I knew about Burgundy being a good representative for minerality, but didn't know that the 2010 vintage would be something to look out for in that regard. I haven't really been struck by minerality from the Burgundy PN's I've had thus far (which isn't saying much, because I've only had 2-3 as of yet). 

Chalkiness is a concept I understand, I guess maybe it is a type of minerality then (a more vague concept for me).

I'm glad to see you relate minerality to acidity, JD! I had definitely noticed that a lot of people describe acidic whites as having a lot of minerality..especially the ones that aren't as made me wonder if acidity and minerality are related (or even mutually exclusive at all). A basic question, but I've yet to see it addressed anywhere. So thanks again! 

Reply by GregT, Jan 19, 2014.

Jennifer - Jon is right. There is no such thing as "minerality" if you are referring to specific minerals. What you are experiencing has to do with acidity and particularly malic acid. You don't experience all "acid" exactly the same. Some are harsh and rough, others are easier to take. For that reason when wine goes through malolactic fermentation, it seems "softer". When it does not, it seem "crisper" and brighter.

I suppose you're also getting some sulfur compounds and when combined with the acidity, that's what people call "minerality". It has nothing whatsoever to do with stones of any kind - that's not science at all, it's just poetry from people who've had a few glasses of wine.

Chalkiness is the same thing - chalk is limestone and you are NOT getting limestone, or calcium carbonate, in your wine. Your brain is imagining what calcium carbonate would be like and so you relate it to chalk, but that's not what's in the wine at all.

Keep in mind that there are many definitions of a "mineral". A naturally occurring non-organic solid substance? OK. That would include metals like gold or silver.

What about a non-organic substance with a regular crystalline structure? Sure. That's a better definition since it would exclude things like coal but would include things like table salt. Speaking of salt, does it taste like minerals or does it taste salty? And by the way, you're tasting the Sodium ion, not the entire compound.

Seems like there is a problem between the way the word "mineral" is used by a geologist or scientist a nutritionist, and a wine writer. Most scientists don't talk about "minerality" in a wine because it would be meaningless to them, nutritionists might talk about it because they include things like metals that may be good or bad for you, and wine writers talk about it mostly because they very often don't know much science and the word sounds cool to them. But that's really just poetry.

Foxiness is not a very precise term either. Some people say it is the "grapey" quality of Welch's grape juice, and that flavor is precisely why I don't particularly love Pinot Noir because I hate grape jelly. But other people say it's a musty flavor produced from fermentation of native American grapes and it is not the grapey flavor you get in jelly or raw grapes. So I never use the term because I'm not sure if what I mean will be what anyone else will mean or understand. But it's commonly used, just like "minerality" is used, probably to sow discontent and confusion!


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